Not a Movie Snob - Django Unchained

Posted on Monday, January 07, 2013 at 05:00 PM


Django Unchained

I approach each new Tarantino 'joint' with a great deal of anticipatory anxiety. I've been such a huge fan of his films for so long (since before I was old enough to legally be a fan) that if I was to settle in to my stinky theatre seat with my big bag of chemical bliss between my legs (the popcorn, folks! Sheesh) and my mind not only remained unblown, but the movie wasn't the best one I'd seen that year...the disappointment would be enough to turn the milk in my Cornflakes to cat piss. And I hate cats.

The day Django Unchained was announced, I may have cried. Tarantino's last film en flambe, the glorious Inglourious Basterds (that's how it's supposed to be spelled) was indeed the best film of its year, but I wasn't expecting to hear of a new QT production for some time as the man takes a notorious amount of it between projects to...well, do whatever he does. Watch movies I guess. But with Django's announcement a mere year (or so) after Basterds made its mark on Nazi Germany (and France) and the further announcement that yes, the Django in the title is a wink and a nudge to the famous character of many a Spaghetti Western, and that yes, that means it's going to be a Spaghetti Western a la Tarantino, well, for a film nut, a Tarantino nut and a Spaghetti Western nut, that day felt like Christmas morning. I may have actually put on the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack to cement the mood. And with every new development in the production of the film, every actor announced, every article written, every fresh poster, still and eventually trailer released, my anticipation grew and grew. "Oh movie gods, why do you torture us by announcing the production of a movie a year before we'll get to see it? Why do you drip feed us images and severed plot lines in amounts that never quench our thirst, but only make it stronger? Why just for once can't you say 'hey, there's a new Tarantino movie coming out...tomorrow! Have fun.' Why are you so cruel?"

One of the great things about Django Unchained is that it knows it's a Quentin Tarantino movie. If you've ever seen a Quentin Tarantino movie, the words 'gritty realism' would not be two that would immediately spring to mind. Quentin paints his pictures in broad strokes with bright, popping colours. To hear the phrase 'over the top, even for a Quentin Tarantino movie' would mean that the film in question would have to have already fallen down the other side, come back around the bend, and would be making its way back up for a second go-around with a knife in its teeth. Tarantino likes being over the top, he's comfortable over the top, he's never been under the top, so why would he start now? And if there's one thing you can say for Django, well, I just said it.

Another thing that makes Django Unchained self aware is the dialogue. Arguably the most admired, most copied and easily the best dialogue man in the business, Quentin's characters can talk for a minute or twenty, and it never gets boring. His characters don't talk like real people. They talk in a hyper-cool, always enthusiastic manner. They talk in fragments or endless monologues. They talk in service to the story, or in spite of the fact that there is one going on around them they seem to be blissfully unaware of. They're hip and exciting and contradictory. There's always something likeable about the bad guys and something flawed about the good guys, if you can tell the two apart, which, often, you can't (except in Hitler's case in Inglourious Basterds, but that moustache would give anyone away). They also cuss a whole bunch and use terms that would offend George Carlin. But after about ten or fifteen minutes in Quentin's world, you become immune to vulgarities. Or you leave the theatre in a huff and wash your ears out with soap when you get home.

In Django you'll find all of the above, although the monologues aren't as long as they have been and the racial epithets are cranked up a notch (or five), which didn't really bother me, not because racism doesn't bother me, it certainly does, but because the world depicted in the film and the characters that inhabit it don't see insults as insults if the person they're being directed at is considered less than human, which they are, and were, in the American south before the abolishment of slavery (and, sadly, for some time after). But Django Unchained should not be approached as a history lesson.

And this is a big mistake I see some reviewers making, thinking they're going to see a historical film about slavery in the old south. No, you're not. I'm sure Quentin has paid attention to authenticating certain details, but Django Unchained is what most Tarantino films are, what most Spaghetti Westerns are, a revenge flick. An opportunity for the minority to strike back in bloody and stylistic ways. You could surface a message out about bullying if you wanted to: don't push people around who are smaller or weaker than you, because one day they might be bigger, and then they might want to push you around. Not quite turning the other cheek I know, but this is revenge fantasy, not a Hallmark movie. This is about getting even and giving the world plastic surgery by ridding it of its saggier, uglier bits. And anyone who says there's no blood in plastic surgery, has never seen Nip/Tuck.

You ask any actor, regardless of their level of fame, what they think about being in a Tarantino movie and they'll gabber on about it like a thirteen year old girl who's just fallen in love for the first time. Aside from the juicy, brilliant dialogue, funky, exciting stories and instant world recognition it gives you, Quentin is famous for creating a party like atmosphere on his sets. Nailing a scene will often result in a break in production for expensive sushi and margarita's. Screenings at Quentin's pad of some of his favourite films before, during and after a movie shoot are an almost nightly occurrence and the familial atmosphere he creates infects every one of the cast and crew. It's this kind of working environment which helps serve the actors in his films so well and pulls such wonderful performances from them in every one of them. Jaime Foxx has nothing to prove after brilliant performances in films like Ray, Collateral and The Soloist (bad film, great performance), but he nearly outdoes himself in Django. Cool, cold, intense. He fills the screen with his presence and you find yourself thanking the movie gods the role did not go to the original intended actor Will Smith, although that would have been interesting. Leonardo DiCaprio for his part, plays the giddily bat-shit crazy plantation owner Calvin Candie, and plays him with gusto. And Christoph Waltz, the breakout star of Basterds, proves once again that he is the best deliverer of Tarantino's dialogue this side of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.

Django Unchained has one hell of a soundtrack and the diverse range of styles complement the action on screen beautifully. Considering the film is about a slave who becomes a bounty hunter, goes to exact revenge on racist whites and free his beloved wife, Tarantino has crafted the soundtrack to sound as if every song were specifically tailored to his film, even in cases where the songs are many decades old, or are sung by people who have been dead for many years, as in Tupac and James Brown's case.

In short, Django Unchained is the most well made, well written, stylish, cool, exciting, bloody, bonkers, beautiful, brutal (how many more B's can I fit in here?) film from 2012 and yes, Django Unchained is the Best. Movie. Of. The. Year. Thank God.

Rating: *

(Just kidding) *****



NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to